While waiting on a mini-bus to get full in a taxi rank, a raggy young boy walks up to the taxi, comes by the door, removes his black hat that looked brown from dirt and starts to beg the people in the taxi for some money. “sanibonani bantu-abadala, bengi cela i-two rand ye sinkwa.” “Hello adults, I am asking for a 2 rand to buy bread.”
The first row of people look the other way, so does the second. He continues to repeat the same line. He looks at an old lady, begins to repeat his line when someone from the back row screams, “Hey boy, why don’t you go home?” The boy, who looks twelve, ignores the man and carries on to ask from the other people in the mini-bus. The man screams again, “Why don’t you go home? Go home man!” The boy who is about to go into pleading mode with the lady who’s sitting next to me because she looks like she’s about to grab her purse gets distracted when the man says, “If you tell me why you left home, I will give you the money you want.” There we go. He finally got his attention. The boy quickly looks at the man and then the sky for some idea for 2 seconds then goes on to say, “You know, old timer, you know how these things go. I was disrespectful to my parents so they kicked me out.” He looks back at the man, mildly rubbing his hat in between his hands, waiting for his reward.
The man looks excited, glad to finally have finally gotten what he wanted from the boy, an opportunity to preach his wisdom. “Go home,“ he shouts, “they are looking for you at home. You can clean yourself up instead of wasting our time asking for ‘2 rands’ here. Just go back home.”
The older ladies who were looking away all of a sudden had energy to add their vocals to this song. “Yes! That’s right!” “What is he doing here?” “Let him go back to his family!” “Look at him.” “We don’t have money for you, go trouble your family!” They shout. The man takes some coins from his pocket and tosses them to the boy, who quickly grabs them, swiftly walks away, faster in his movements, almost smiling.
I sat there in this scene, so perplexed and upset. Here was a man offering this oh-so-simple advice. That all the boy needed to do was to “just go home.” It was as simple as that. ‘Just’ – That is all that he needed to do in order to stop being in taxi ranks begging for money.
Well, man in the taxi with the simple advice, If I wasn’t so upset that day I would’ve told you in person, but it’s not as simple as that.
Young children don’t ‘just’ leave homes for the dingy streets risking being hurt, killed, arrested and attacked.
Young children don’t leave homes. They leave houses. They leave houses where they don’t have family, have lost a loved one or have no one. They leave because they are kicked out. They leave because they are being raped by someone close to them and no one believes them or has time to listen to them. They leave because they are on drugs and do not want to be helped or no one will help them. They leave because there is no food at home and they have to provide for their families and themselves. They leave houses where they are breadwinners and have to go to the big city to look for work only to find the city has no work for them and they have no means to go back home or are too ashamed to go back empty handed. They can’t go home because their entire family is with them on the streets.
They can’t go home because they have no home.
I’m very sure this boy would’ve appreciated your advice if he didn’t hear from 10 other people on the daily. He would’ve appreciated you giving him advice on a shelter he could go to or somewhere where he could go enquire about a job. He would’ve preferred to just get the coins from you without your song, on repeat that he’s so sick of. If he wasn’t so desperate, he would’ve preferred for you to just be quiet and look the other way.
Let’s build homes. Let’s understand the stories behind the street child before we can offer our advice. Let’s be kind first.